Welcome back to A Read of Ice and Fire! Please join me as I read and react, for the very first time, to George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.
Today’s entry is Part 20 of A Feast for Crows, in which we cover Chapter 28 (“Cersei”).
Previous entries are located in the Index. The only spoilers in the post itself will be for the actual chapters covered and for the chapters previous to them. As for the comments, please note that the Powers That Be have provided you a lovely spoiler thread here on Tor.com. Any spoileriffic discussion should go there, where I won’t see it. Non-spoiler comments go below, in the comments to the post itself.
And now, the post!
Chapter 28: Cersei
Cersei rides in a litter with Lady Taena Merryweather to see the new High Septon, highly irritated that she is obliged to go to him and ask why he has not yet come to give Tommen his blessing as king. She quizzes Taena about Margaery’s possible interests in the men in her entourage, and is skeptical of Margaery’s claim that Lord Renly was too drunk to consummate their marriage on their wedding night. Taena mentions that Margaery’s brother Loras is more devoted to her than any other. They discuss the history of the High Septons, and Cersei urges Taena to bring her son to court as a companion for Tommen.
The litter is blocked at the foot of Visenya’s Hill by a great gathering of sparrows, all camped upon the steps leading to the Great Sept. Cersei is appalled by their gall and filth, but rather than sparking a riot by ordering them cleared away, decides to continue to the sept on foot. She becomes incensed when she sees that the sparrows have heaped bones on the statue of Baelor the Beloved; one of the sparrows tells her they are the bones of holy men and women, “murdered for their faith.” Cersei tries to win them by declaring that their deaths shall be avenged, but the man tells her they would rather have protection for the clergy still living. The situation grows unstable, but Cersei manages to get them away and to the sept, though she is further angered when her guards are not allowed inside with her.
Inside, she finds the new High Septon in plain, worn clothes, on his knees scrubbing the floor, along with the rest of the septons. He tells her that the fine robes and crown given the last High Septon have been sold for charity. Cersei recalls how he had been installed at the insistence of the sparrows, and concludes he is mad. They go to kneel before the Crone, and Cersei tells him she wants the sparrows gone from the city, but he answers that they do not befoul the plaza more than the execution done there. Cersei is incredulous that he dares to bring up Ned Stark’s beheading, but forces herself to agree that doing before the sept was in poor taste. He says most of them have nowhere to go, and that not all of the soldiers raping and pillaging their places of worship were wolves or followers of Lord Stannis. He mentions the atrocities said to have been perpetrated by the Hound at Saltpans, which include raping and mutilating a twelve-year-old girl promised to the Faith. Cersei points out that the Hound is a traitor, and fights for Dondarrion now, not Tommen. The High Septon still wants to know why there is no one to protect the faithful.
He and Cersei bargain; in return for giving his blessing to King Tommen, the High Septon wants a decree repealing the law of Maegor the Cruel, which prohibits the clergy from bearing arms, and restore the ancient Faith Militant orders of the Sword and Star. Cersei agrees, on condition that he forgive the crown its debt of nearly a million dragons. The High Septon agrees, and says he will send his sparrows off “to defend the meek and humble of the land, reborn as Poor Fellows as of old.” Well-pleased with herself, Cersei takes her leave.
On the way back to the keep, Cersei explains to Taena the history of the Warrior’s Sons and the Poor Fellows. The former, also called Swords, were knights who gave up their worldly possessions to swear themselves to the High Septon, while the latter, also called Stars, were common wandering brothers who acted as armed escorts for travelers, but both were infamous for their implacable hatred of enemies of the Faith. Taena suggests, enemies like Stannis and his red sorceress, and Cersei gleefully agrees.
Her good mood is soured, though, when they encounter Margaery Tyrell also returning to the keep from a ride with her cousins. Cersei thinks irritably on Margaery’s vigorous daily activities, and her continual efforts to get Tommen to join her, which Cersei considers attempts to steal Tommen from her. She comes to the sudden conclusion that the Tyrells must be harboring Tyrion at Highgarden. Cersei and Margaery make sweetly venomous small talk, and Cersei warns Margaery to be careful in the woods, where Robert had lost his life. She remembers how she had used to duck out of going hunting with Robert so that she could steal time with Jaime.
Margaery smiled at Ser Loras; a sweet sisterly smile, full of fondness. “Your Grace is kind to fear for me, but my brother keeps me well protected.”
Go and hunt, Cersei had urged Robert, half a hundred times. My brother keeps me well protected. She recalled what Taena had told her earlier, and a laugh came bursting from her lips.
“Your Grace laughs so prettily.” Lady Margaery gave her a quizzical smile. “Might we share the jest?”
“You will,” the queen said. “I promise you, you will.”
Jeez, Cersei, just because you were boinking your brother doesn’t mean everyone is.
Of course, I can’t quite tell whether Cersei genuinely thinks that Margaery and Loras really are getting it on, or whether she just thinks she could get leverage out of making everyone think that they are. The latter would actually be rather diabolically clever of her, provided she can make a convincing enough case for it.
Which she may not be able to, since I’m assuming for now that it’s total bullshit. I could be wrong about that, and certainly I know Margaery Tyrell is a lot more savvy than her façade suggests, but for whatever reason, at the moment my gut feeling is that she is not actually deceitful in the way Cersei believes her to be. She is maneuvering for her own advantage and protection, certainly (and wouldn’t you, if you were in the lions’ den?), but I feel that at core she is still exactly what she presents herself to be—i.e. a virgin, and certainly not fucking her brother.
This assumption is helped along quite a bit by Taena’s tale of Margaery’s wedding night with Renly (with Loras carrying her up to the bedchamber and etc). Cersei seems to assume that the story implied that some kind of torrid incestuous threesome happened, ooh la la, whereas given the hints we’ve received of Loras’s and Renly’s apparently deep and abiding love affair, the first thing it suggested to my mind is that Loras and Renly were probably the only ones using the wedding bed that night, and that Margaery probably went off and read a book or something. I mean, I think she was what, ten when she married Renly? Young, in any case. So it’s hardly even surprising that she wouldn’t care about being left out of the nookie.
Though this version of events, if true, suggests some fascinating possibilities about the relationship between Margaery and Loras. Like, maybe she had no idea what was going on and Loras and Renly just waited for her to fall asleep before knocking boots, but far less boring an idea was that she was in fact perfectly well aware of Loras and Renly’s relationship, and was actually complicit in helping it along. Which is a notion that I find kind of weirdly delightful. It probably says something that I am wanting to coo over the idea of Margaery helping her brother carry out his clandestine gay love affair with her husband. It’s nuts, but somehow adorable? Look, I don’t know.
In any case, obviously I have no idea if any of this speculation even remotely holds water, but now I’m kind of dying to find out if I’m right.
In the meantime, let’s move on to OH MY GOD CERSEI WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND PLEASE SLAP YOURSELF NOW.
Did I read that right? Did Cersei just blithely agree to let the state religion arm itself? With soldiers who only answer to
the Pope the High Septon? Really? Really?
I did, didn’t I.
I REALLY don’t need to be a political theory expert to know that this is just about the absolute worst idea in the history of potentially regime-toppling bad ideas. Yes, Cersei, the
Knights Templar the orders of Sword and Star were “implacable to the enemies of the Faith.” So what happens if they decide “enemies of the Faith” includes YOU?
Ow, the stupid, it burnsssss.
Yeah, so this is totally going to end well, not. It might even not end well almost immediately, depending on whether Mr. Oh So Humble Floor Scrubber there is already planning to attempt a coup, or is merely setting things up to have the capacity to do so, should a sufficient threshold of godlessness on Cersei’s part be reached. Ugh.
Mind you, I am not blind to the legitimate concerns of the clergy here. It is, definitely, total bullshit that the sanctity of their septs and their persons have been so grossly violated, and it is even more total bullshit that the crown has done nothing to protect them, from either their enemies or from their own people. I’m not sure that I agree that the depredations against the clergy should outweigh the identical depredations being simultaneously carried out against, you know, everyone else, but nevertheless I agree that it absolutely should not be happening.
And yeah, giving the clergy the ability to defend themselves seems like on paper a good solution to that, but I know waaaay too much history about the exploits of autonomous theocratic militants for this notion to do anything but give me an extreme case of the screaming meemies. For my money, Cersei couldn’t have done herself a worse disservice than if she’d pressed a giant red button labeled DANGEROUSLY DESTABILIZE MY KINGDOM HERE. Because, you know, it was already so very very stable to begin with. Yeah.
Good Lord, pun intended.
But, you know, congrats on paying off one of your credit cards there, Cersei. Good job, well done. Have a slow clap.
This Saltpans massacre thing is continuing to throw me, because I’m continuing to be convinced, for some reason, that it never happened. Or at least that if it did happen, it wasn’t the Hound who did it. I’m not even sure where I’m getting that conviction from, except that I just don’t understand why Clegane would have even done it in the first place. Not because he’s such a bastion of righteousness or anything, but just because it (obviously) was way too attention-drawing an act for a guy who, last I heard, was just trying to get the hell out of Dodge. Not to mention, raping and mutilating a young girl for (apparently) the LOLZ really seems more like his brother’s style than his.
But who knows. I assume at some point I’ll actually find out what the hell the deal is with this rumor, but for now I’m assuming it’s all wrong.
She thought of Joffrey, clawing at his neck. In his last moments he had looked to her in desperate appeal, and a sudden memory had stopped her heart; a drop of red blood hissing in a candle flame, a croaking voice that spoke of crowns and shrouds, of death at the hands of the valonqar.
Oh, look, a hint at this damn Maggy prophecy the story’s been so cagey about!
And… I’m not a whole lot more enlightened, really. Other than that something in the foretelling predicted Joffrey’s death, which, okay, but that’s kind of ancient history at this point. The only other thing is the reference to “valonqar,” which… do I know what that means? I feel like maybe I’ve heard that term before, but I’m not sure. Maybe it is a reference to Arya’s crazy death cult people?
(…Ooh, does that mean it might be a prediction that Arya is going to kill Cersei? Because I ain’t gonna lie, that would be awesome, in a total Inigo Montoya kind of way.)
Still, the absence of a bloody sheet meant little, by itself. Common peasant girls bled like pigs upon their wedding nights, she had heard, but that was less true of highborn maids like Margaery Tyrell. A lord’s daughter was more like to give her maidenhead to a horse than a husband, it was said, and Margaery had been riding since she was old enough to walk.
Well, at least Cersei demonstrates here that she knows the whole “bleeding being proof of virginity” thing is crap. Pity that’s something that even modern-day folk don’t seem to know.
Cersei did not intend to squander Tommen’s strength playing wet nurse to sparrows, or guarding the wrinkled cunts of a thousand sour septas. Half of them are probably praying for a good raping.
…Buuut she pretty much loses all feminist points instantly right here, minus another ten million for being a terrible human being in general. Seriously, Cersei? Seriously?
You know what, you are fired, girl. Go to hell. Go directly to hell, do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dragons. I will maybe even swallow my protests, just this once, if it ends up that the Westeros Neo-Templars send you there. Really, just – go. Away. Now.
And that’s our post for today, mine darlings! Have a summer’s day or seven, and I’ll see you next Thursday!